Aviators successfully return evacuated aircraft home

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Keenan Kunst
  • 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
The 33 aircraft evacuated to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in anticipation of Hurricane Isaac returned home to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Aug. 31, after an all-clear was given by officials on the ground.

The aircraft, which are collectively valued at nearly $141 million, belong to the 479th Flying Training Group, a geographically separated unit of the 12th Flying Training Wing.

The initial order to evacuate the aircraft came down Aug. 25, and within 24 hours the aircraft and 49 accompanying aircrew members were headed to Randolph, out of the storm's path. The evacuation was quick and efficient, according to Col. Neil Allen, 479th FTG commander.

"Of the five hurricane evacuations I have participated in, this one - by far - was the smoothest of my career," he said. "It is an absolute pleasure to work with such professionals."

The storm missed the Pensacola area and left no notable damage. However, the aircraft evacuation was not overcautious, but a necessary preventive measure to avoid catastrophe.

"For several days, storm predictions threatened us in a very real way," Allen said to group members. "I urge you to not scoff at future hurricanes. Those who were prepared for a storm that never materialized were wise. Those who did not were just lucky."

With the storm passed and dissipated, the 479th FTG resumed training with an enhanced schedule designed to get combat systems officer training back on schedule.

"Some may question whether an operations tempo that includes weekend operations and increased daily schedules places timeline ahead of quality training," the colonel said. "The answer is a definite 'no'. The timeline is a part of our mission crosscheck because it adds predictability and efficiency to the pipeline."

"Training quality always wins out over training timeline," he said. "If the timeline suffers in order to ensure quality training, then so be it. I would rather graduate world-class CSOs late than a lesser aviator on time."